Saturday, 22 July 2017
Always curious about a new Frankenstein movie, I picked this up for pennies on Amazon. To be honest I expected something akin to THE FRANKENSTEIN ARMY or THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY, both pretty dire. What a surprise I got! Modern day Los Angeles and Victor Frankenstein (Danny Huston no less) and his wife have created a human with the help of Dr.Praetorius but, of course "Victor fucked up!" all of which is pretty routine low-budget horror stuff (and the film certainly delivers on blood and gore). But once the creature is loose the film rises several notches thanks to the script which modernises many incidents from the novel by Mary Shelley with a voice over by the creature quoting the text and thanks to the remarkably good performance by Xavier Samuel as the luckless and ever suffering creature. I thought this delivered on all levels. Rating ***,
Saturday, 8 July 2017
There is little to distinguish this Western from a hundred others made during the 1950's but Joel McCrea could always be relied upon to give a film dignity. The supporting cast is good with Virginia Mayo as the gal with a past trying to find a new life and Leo Gordon for once playing a sympathetic character. Michael Ansara and Michael Pate are also on hand. The story, from a tale by Louis L'Amour is pretty good and there is little time to get bored between the shootouts. McCrea's greatest moment was still a few years away in Sam Peckingpah's superb RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY with Randolph Scott and, in which, McCrea died, perhaps, the most moving death in the history of Westerns. Director Thomas Carr's career was spent directing either Westerns or Serials before moving into Television where he directed episodes of almost every TV Western. THE TALL STRANGER is not outstanding but neither is it boring. Rating **
Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Further to my earlier post : According to the industry and the media Universal's reboot of THE MUMMY is a box-office flop. Generally bad reviews have contributed to predictions that this might mean the early demise of the planned "Dark Universe" franchise. Whatever the reasons for the failure it seems that everybody is eager to heap the blame on star Tom Cruise citing his "micro-management" of the production. The fact that the film was helmed by a relatively inexperienced director who, reportedly, was rather overwhelmed by the scale of the production seems to have been largely passed over. Cruise is well known to be a control freak when it comes to his films. So why did they hire him? Tom Cruise, in my opinion, is a pretty good actor, but it must never be forgotten that "Tom Cruise" is a product which Cruise, the actor, guards jealously. His reported interference in THE MUMMY has resulted in the film having the highest grossing box-office take of any Tom Cruise film. Tom knows exactly what he is doing and, surely, if you hire him it seem rather unfair to start moaning when he does it. Director Alex Kurtzman had only directed one film, the modest family drama PEOPLE LIKE US, before taking on the multi-million dollar MUMMY, although he has had a long and honourable career as a writer and producer. I'm sure that Tom Cruise will laugh all the way to the bank and, ironically, I suspect that, ultimately, so will Universal. If that happens that will almost certainly be thanks to Tom Cruise.
|"I did it my way....."|
Thursday, 15 June 2017
Richard Quine's PUSHOVER is a terrific film noir, rarely mentioned among the greats but fully worthy of that honour. It is also beautiful Kim Novak's first credited film appearance and it is easy to see why Columbia's Harry Cohn wanted to promote her as a star to replace Rita Hayworth. Fred MacMurray was an interesting actor. In later years he became associated with the television series MY THREE SONS and a stint with Disney which promoted him as a comfy father figure but he was much more interesting in the earlier days of his career when he was a perfect film noir lead. He was totally believable in the classic DOUBLE JEOPARDY and here in PUSHOVER because he always looked the type of guy who could be tempted by a femme fatale. Of course, things didn't go well for him once Barbara Stanwyck or Kim Novak had finished with him. PUSHOVER is beautifully photographed by Lester White, with almost the entire film taking place at night. Supporting cast is top-notch with Phil Carey, E.G.Marshall and Dorothy Malone. Script by Roy Huggins from a Thomas Walsh novel. Rating ****
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
The oddest thing about these films is Houdini seems to have no great interest in exploiting his enviable reputation as an escape artist and there are few examples of what he did best in these films.. If you have any interest in Houdini then these DVDs are a must, whatever the quality. They are both disappointing and essential.
THE MAN FROM BEYOND (1919) directed by Burton King. *
TERROR ISLAND (1922) directed by James Cruze *
HALDANE OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1923) directed by Harry Houdini *
Friday, 9 June 2017
|Harry Treadaway as Victor Frankenstein and Rory Kinnear as his creature in PENNY DREADFUL.|
The monsters are back! They live! They walk among us again. Thankfully, I don't mean the serial killers, maniacs or torturers that have infested our film and television screen for too long. I'm talking about the genuine article. You may have noticed that over the last few years there has been a revival of classic literary and cinematic monsters on both big and small screens. Some time back Universal revived their classic Egyptian mummy character, Im-Ho-Tep. True, he didn't look a lot like he did back in 1932 when played by Boris Karloff, but the film was fun and resulted in some fun spinoffs.
Then Dracula himself was back in a television film, a min-series and a feature film, DRACULA UNTOLD. Then there was THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES (soon to be followed by a second series) which featured elements of the original story and included Mary Shelley herself as a character.
Charlie Higson gave us JEKYLL AND HYDE which told of the original Jekyll's grandson coping with the family curse as well as bunch of other monsters, including Spring Heeled Jack. and various monster makers and hunters causing havoc in 1930's London. To my mind the best of all was the television series PENNY DREADFUL which quite convincingly managed to combine Victor Frankenstein, three of his creatures, Dorian Gray, witches, exorcisms, resurrectionists, Dr.Jekyll, Dracula and a werewolf in one narrative. Strong stuff.
|"I'll be back!"|
|The Mummy (2017)|
|The boys are back in town.|
Tuesday, 6 June 2017
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM (1933) Directed by Kurt Nuemann. and THE SECRET OF THE CHATEAU (1934) Directed by Richard Thorpe.
These two rarities from the Universal stable are often listed as horror movies, Neither really fits neatly into that genre. It is easy to dismiss THE SECRET OF THE CHATEAU which is a pretty dull detective story about the theft of a valuable Guttenberg Bible. I found it dull in the extreme, The advertising for the film is more than slightly misleading. Rating *. THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM is another thing altogether. Not a horror film as such, it is a remake of a German film made the previous year which is listed on IMBd as "Horror" although that is not always a reliable source. This version has a lot going for it. It belongs to the locked room murder genre and tells of a room where murders were once committed where quests are mysteriously vanishing again. The room is situated in the castle of Robert von Hellsdorf (played by Lionel Atwill - another reason for its close association with the horror movies). The supporting cast is above average and includes the Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold and Onslow Stevens. Atwill is usually worth the time spent watching a film and this is no exception. The film was remade again in 1938 and again in 1944 (as a musical!). Rating **
I'm going to swim against the tide with this one. When I first saw it years ago I quite liked it but seeing it again recently I found that it irritated the hell of me for a whole bunch of reasons. DEAD AGAIN was Kenneth Branagh's second film as a director. With his first, HENRY V, he was on safe, more familiar ground, Here he veers into Hitchcock territory with a psycho-drama about murder and reincarnation. Branagh and Emma Tompson play, respectively, a modern day private eye and an amnesia victim given to bad dreams of being murdered back in the late 1940's by her husband (also Branagh), In his past incarnation Ken has a goatee beard and the modern Ken doesn't and even when he is looking at a picture of his previous self does he or anybody else seem to realise. It is rather like Superman disguising himself as Clarke Kent and the entire staff of the Daily Planet failing to notice.Branagh's direction seems over emphatic as do all the performances. VERTIGO remade by luvvies springs to mind. I remain a Branagh fan, With Andy Garcia, Robin Williams. Rating **
My interest in films was nurtured by my mother who was a great cinemagoer. But that interest was really encouraged by my school film society and in particular by two teachers, particularly an American named Jim Kitses. Jim went on to work and the British Film Institute, to write a wonderful book on Westerns and to lecture on film at San Francisco University. .I'm happy say Jim and I are still in contact today. This picture shows Jim (with moustache) having a relaxed chat with film director Samuel Fuller.
Thursday, 25 May 2017
I was, until a few days ago, unfamiliar with the work of director Daniel Birt, except for the interesting THREE WEIRD SISTERS. If this neat little thriller is anything to go by his others films may be worth investigation. To give away any plot points would be unfair as the script, written by Michael Pertwee, twists this way and that like a snake. The film has a dreamlike quality (or should I say nightmare) which is enhanced by the dramatic photography of Erwin Hillier (whose career began with Murnau and Lang and ended with Harryhausen.) The words "Film Noir" are used far too o.ften these days but this seems to me to be a rare example of a genuine British film noir. The cast are more than competent with Richard Todd and Valerie Hobson in the lead and excellent support from Tom Walls as the dogged Railway detective and a nice cameo by Dora Bryan as a slatternly waitress. Rating ***
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
The Japanese certainly have a flair for horror movies. This film has more in common with William Castle's THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL than it does with the somewhat over praised JUON : THE GRUDGE. The film may not have an enjoyable performance by Vincent Price but it certainly delivers on horror. A group of people find themselves unable to leave a creepy old mansion which is complete with a sinister hunchback caretaker. As cliché demands the hapless characters are picked of with one by one. The film has several different titles and the copy viewed on You Tube is the Italian print (although listed as HOUSE OF TERRORS). The Japanese cast are dubbed into Italian but there are English sub-titles. Alternative Titles : THE GHOST OF THE HUNCHBACK.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Back in November I announced that I would be returning to film reviews in the New Year. Due to various circumstances, both personal and technical, this never happened. The world turns and it is now possible to reopen the Fleapit, While there will be a wider range of posts such as the promised return to reviews (of a sort), broader comments on the film world in general etc. I will, on occasions. continue to list films in my DVD collection. As before, comments are both encouraged and welcome.